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North County Students Pen Sci-Fi Series

The covers for "What Lies Ahead" by High Tech High North County students.
High Tech High North County
The covers for "What Lies Ahead" by High Tech High North County students.
North County Students Pen Sci-Fi Series
North County Students Pen Sci-Fi Series GUESTS:Ryan Foerster, co-author, "What Lies Ahead" Maryam Abbas, co-illustrator, "What Lies Ahead"

>> This is KPBS Midday Edition . I am Maureen Cavanaugh . >> High school students usually write book reports. They don't often write their own books. Science-fiction anthology, what lies ahead, volumes one and two are written and researched and illustrated by students. The students had some help from a sci-fi author and professional illustrators. Joining me is 14-year-old Ryan Forrester. A student who wrote one of the stories. Ryan, welcome to the show. >> Thank you for having me. >> And 14-year-old student Miriam abbess who illustrated one of the stories. Miriam, welcome. >> Thank you for having me. >> Ryan, this wasn't a project where you went off into your own rooms to come up with this story. Tell us about the kind of group effort this was. >> We worked in a group of three. We had a scientist or a researcher to see if the book was plausible. >> Miriam, you and Ryan worked on different stories but you both have the themes of what happens after a nuclear war. Why did the group choose that scenario? >> Our teacher was telling us that our stories are very similar. It was just a coincidence that hours were like each other. I think we're both drawn to this topic of nuclear war because it is pretty interesting. >> Ryan, wasn't it sorely -- sort of depressing? >> Yes. I think I had a lot of fun with it though. You can go a lot of different directions. I liked exploring each of those directions. >> Ryan, you are a writer. Miriam, you are an illustrator. You boast had -- both had scientists that worked too. What sorts of questions did the scientist look into and how did it help you create Betty stories? -- Better stories? >> Once we figured out what we wanted to do with the story and we figured out we wanted to work with population control, she started to research about what would happen if we had a nuclear war and what would be the residual effects. We started to find out if a nuclear war happened, the radiation would make the world on an happened all -- uninhabitable. >> And Ryan? >> My scientist had to research things like could radiation actually destroyed the trees? Could it inhibit their growth or with genetically modifying a tree be possible. We found that the answer was yes. That helped us come up with a more scientifically grounded basis to the story. >> Ryan, you had the opportunity of actually hearing from noted sci-fi author David Brin. What advice did he give you? >> I think some of the biggest advice I got from him was a void info dubs. The reader likes to figure things them out for themselves. Instead of telling them, this is how this is and this is the world right now, you have to let them learn what this world is through dialogue and other things in the story. >> Miriam, what did you learn from the illustrators? >> We had a professor come in and when I first showed her my illustrations I was really confident in them. I was almost attaching myself to them. When she came, she saw the illustrations and thought they were great. I had a certain theme. My theme was minimalistic, monotone. I had very grade -- gray, black, white, those kind of colors. She told me I should not be attached to images. One image distracted from my theme and through the whole book off. She taught me to be able to not use things that you worked very hard on if they throw the other things you worked hard on away. And to be able to prioritize what you want for your book. >> Did either of you read a lot of science fiction before this project >> I personally read a lot of science fiction. I have always liked science fiction. I like exploring the possibilities. And just looking into other worlds. >> Miriam? >> For me, I am drawn to more evidence-based in science. When they told the class we're going to do a science fiction project, unlike my friends who are really for it, I thought it was absurd. Why write books about something that is fictional? It is not real. As we started going on with the project, I realized that it is not as simple as fact and non-fact. Just because there is not facts or evidence behind it, it doesn't mean the story is nonsense. His story is something -- a story is something the writer believes to be true. That is something I really learned after hearing that we were going to do this project. >> Ryan, what lies ahead tonight? >> We have event and we are going to have some authors and illustrators and scientists to come up and read excerpts from the books. There'll be a panel where the audience can ask questions about the books in the process of creating the books. >> That happens at 7:00 tonight. I've been speaking with students Ryan and Miriam who helped produce the sci-fi anthology, what lies ahead. Thank you both and good luck. >> Thank you. >> Thank you.

High school students usually write book reports, not their own books. But that's exactly what students at High Tech High North County have done.

Ninth graders wrote, researched and illustrated a series of science fiction stories, published in a two-volume anthology, “What Lies Ahead.” They got some help from noted sci-fi author David Brin, literary agents and professional illustrators.

“David Brin gave us rally great advice: avoid info dumps,” said Ryan Foerster, author of the story “Oxygen Sold Separately.” “A literary agent built off on that idea—you want to make the reader feel like they’re discovering something. The reader likes to put stuff together.”


Maryam Abbas illustrated the story “Clouded Vision” and said she learned how to let go of work if it didn’t serve the story, even if she was proud of it.

“I had one drawing I was really set on, but the illustrator who came in said never to cling to an image, because it wasn’t really meshing with the story,” she said.

Students will be at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore Thursday night for a launch party to celebrate the publication.

Abbas and Foerster join KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on what it takes to put a book together.